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War Storm
Red Queen Series: Book 4
by Victoria Aveyard

Review found here.

Do you ever stumble across a book whilst on GoodReads or Twitter and read the description and just know, deep down, that you're going to love this book? That's how I felt when I first heard about Red Queen (way back at the end of 2014). Between the gorgeous cover design and the intriguing and original plot (well, as much as I could discern from the GoodReads description), I was absolutely convinced I would adore Red Queen—and I did. And that adoration has continued throughout the entire Red Queen series. So leading up to War Storm's release, my feelings were naturally mixed—I knew I would love it, but I also knew that having to say goodbye to the series (and quite possibly see some characters killed off) would be painful, at the very least.

As I mentioned recently, I love how different and distinct each book in the Red Queen series is;     I think speaks to how well the series was planned out. Red Queen introduces us to Norta, the social structures of Reds and Silvers (which is more like Reds vs. Silvers), the existence of the Scarlet Guard, provides backstory for Mare, reveals her powers, etc. etc. Then, after Maven's betrayal at the end of Red Queen, Glass Sword sees Mare and Cal rescued by the Scarlet Guard, and (as per most second-books-in-a-dystopian-series go) the two join the resistance and get up to typical resistance shenanigans (training, making battle plans, butting heads with the resistance leaders, etc.), but ultimately Mare ends up captured by the end of the book. King's Cage is thus easily defined by Mare's imprisonment. Notice a pattern here? Big event/cliffhanger at the end of the book (Mare + Cal getting rescued by the Scarlet Guard, Mare getting captured by Maven) sets up the focus of the next book (joining the Scarlet Guard, Mare's imprisonment).

Ergo, Cal's choice (*cough* BETRAYAL *cough*) at the end of King's Cage establishes War Storm's focus: Cal and Mare now being split between two different factions of the rebellion against Maven. Cal, with the help of his grandmother and uncle, seeks to dethrone his usurping brother to reclaim his rightful place on the throne, while Mare and the Scarlet Guard fight against the tyranny of Silver rule in any form (whether it be Maven's brutal and despotic reign or Cal's more benevolent, passive reinforcement of the oppressive status quo). While Mare and Cal being separated is nothing new (hello, Mare spends literally—okay, mostly—ALL of the previous book imprisoned by Maven), and this ship is not unfamiliar with rocky waters (re: the entire series except for like one makeout scene in the rain/mud), the two have now actively chosen opposite sides of the fight. Exploring that tension and Mare's response—finally confronting the dissonance of her love for Cal and her commitment to the Scarlet Guard—is equal parts brilliant and heartbreaking. We first saw echoes of this in Red Queen, when Mare is dancing with Cal in his bedroom and falling for him (aka the same prince who is at best complicit and at worst partially responsible for the oppression of Reds). But then Maven betrays everyone and takes the throne, and the Scarlet Guard rescues Mare and Cal so 1) Cal has to be grateful to the Scarlet Guard and at least somewhat adopt their ideology, which 2) allows Mare to push aside her cognitive dissonance over this situation for a solid two more books.

I don't see this as a failure or plot hole on the author's part, but the opposite: I see Mare's affection for Cal, despite him being politically problematic, as an incredibly thoughtful and deliberate way of humanizing and characterizing Mare. It's not until they are quite literally forced to pick sides that Mare has to face the irrationality of their relationship, which is a necessary step in her character development. Seeing the way that plays out, from the subtle and nuanced to the more conscious (like forcing herself to refer to Cal as Tiberius, both out loud and in her head) is an altogether more introspective and idealistic struggle than perhaps anything Mare has faced before. And this is not to say that Mare's most important issue is that of romantic woes; it's Mare examining the relational fallout of her ideology in the wake of her recent recommitment. And lest I forget, since War Storm continues King's Cage's tradition of multiple first-person narrators, we get a glimpse into the headspaces of so many other characters impacted by her decisions. This multi-perspective emotional struggle forms the backbone of the book, a frame into which the plot events are fitted, which makes for a rich and complex view of the events of the book.

Ultimately, War Storm is a perfectly bittersweet close to the Red Queen series. It does its predecessors justice, elegantly tying up all loose ends just enough to get a fair amount of closure without explicitly spelling out the future of the characters or Norta. Although I always want more stories and an epilogue and to find out which characters ended up together, I respect the way War Storm ended the series: it was a clean and elegant send-off, one that squarely places Mare's focus on the resistance and gives an appropriate amount of weight to her romantic situation. War Storm is a masterfully well-written and fitting finale to an excellent series. 

Carolyn is a twenty-something-year-old blogger who shares her favorite YA reads and favorite book-related finds with readers on Fridays.

You can find this book here.

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From Twinkle, With Love
by Sanhya Menon

Review found here.

Where do I begin? I thought this was such a cute story! I am not a big fan of YA contemporary due to me being older than the targeted audience. The last book I read was Eleanor and Park, which I loved. From Twinkle, With Love was such a refreshing read. I really enjoyed the story and the development. I found this story to be very believable and, even as an adult, relatable. The issues Twinkle face are not just issues in high school but found in everyday life. Twinkle’s problems are more relatable to me as an adult than in high school. She feels left out and ignored but works hard to make her dream come true. As we work, we want to rise to the top and some people will challenge their morals to thrive. Twinkle faces this problem as she starts to gains attention as she flourishes. She must learn who she wants to truly be and what she wants to portray with her films. Her best friend, Maddie, is having a hard time juggling Twinkle and her new friends. These sorts of issues occur on both ends, being ignored or trying to not ignore those who are important for you. Twinkle also faces a dilemma with her feelings as she tries sort through her feelings between Sahil and her secret admirer “N”. All of these issues Twinkle face are very realistic and it was nice to see her fall to rise again. 

The characters were developed so well in this story. Twinkle had the most growth to truly find her best self. She started off feeling invisible but gains more confidence in herself as she continues directing her movie. I really enjoyed seeing Twinkle struggle through these challenges and come out on top. I was so connected to her character and really wanted her to thrive. Maddie was another character who had a lot of growth. We could see her trying hard to balance her friendship with Twinkle and Hannah. Sahil was probably my other favorite character. I really enjoyed his personality and his commitment. These characters were all a perfect fit for the book which really complimented the story.

Final Thoughts

Overall, From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon was a very enjoyable read. It was a refreshing story for YA contemporary. I am very happy that I read this book and gave it chance. I really enjoyed the story and found it very relatable for anyone. The characters were great and watching them fall and rise really made me cheer for them. A perfect blend of challenges and rewards was presented. I really enjoyed Twinkle’s character and the way she found true self in the end. This is a great coming of age book and I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a light fun read. If you enjoy YA contemporary then I highly suggest you pick up this book.

You can find this book here.

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All of this is True
by Lygia Day Penaflor

Review found here.

Four privileged Long Island teens befriend their favorite YA author with disastrous results.

Soon after their first encounter at a book signing, the bewitching and charismatic Fatima Ro—23-year-old author of Undertow—takes four of her teenage worshippers under her wing. Snobbish Miri Tan is the self-proclaimed leader of their school’s Undertow Society, giddy fangirl Soleil Johnston carefully documents every one of her interactions with Ro, ditzy Penny Panzarella kindly helps out around the author’s house after being given a key, and socially isolated Jonah Nicholls harbors an emotional attachment to Ro’s story. But when she very obviously writes them into her next novel, The Absolution of Brady Stevenson, the teens’ rose-tinted glasses are shattered, painful truths are uncovered—and, most shocking of all, Jonah is attacked and ends up in a coma. The story is related via a mixture of formats, including video interview transcripts, magazine articles, and passages from Ro’s second novel, with each providing insight into the characters’ individual relationships with the author. The weight of grief, authentic human connections, and whether life offers do-overs are all explored here. A lack of physical descriptions requires readers to speculate about characters’ ethnicities based on the diversity of their names.

Utterly addictive and psychologically delectable—Peñaflor’s (Unscripted Joss Byrd, 2016) second novel will shock at every twist and turn. (Fiction. 13-18)

You can find this book here.

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